Thursday, May 29, 2014

Words Matter

Words have power. They affect how others see us and influence how we see others. When we speak with easy clichés about serious issues (“Suicide is selfish. “), it’s a good indicator of how much we’d like to ignore an issue or believe it’s something it isn’t rather than consider its complicated causes or imperfect solutions.

That’s why these new “homeless meters” that popped up downtown disgust me. CHANGE FOR CHANGE / HELP THE HOMELESS / HANDOUTS DON’T HELP / FEED A METER, NOT AN ADDICTION. The first two lines sound so optimistic! And if that’s all they said, at least it would sound like we’re trying. Then you realize, wait, why are they placed in the most common spots homeless people ask for money? Thankfully, at least the city and business leaders are honest in interviews, saying part of what they’re hoping is that it’ll get transients out of downtown. And the money does go to causes that help the homeless. Of course, we already know how to give to those causes. So that’s where the meter designers decide to give an additional…slap.


Really? Ever? Because if I was homeless, I guarantee that a handout would help. A lot! So why do the meters say it won’t? Oh. Right. Homeless people are addicts. All of them. They are! Except that’s not true. You can admit that, right? Not every homeless person is an addict. But when we’re told HANDOUTS DON’T HELP / FEED A METER, NOT AN ADDICTION, that what’s being said. Great! Because now we can feed the meters and sweep homeless people out of my sight while also avoiding buying them drugs (and they are all on drugs). And that’s great because we all need more encouragement to be more selfish and judgmental.

But I get it. Some of them are addicts. Many of them? I don’t know. Maybe. But I can always walk on by without giving them money, which I usually do. (Well, I usually did. But then I was so disgusted by the inaccurate reasoning and untrue words of these meters, I now give more handouts with bigger bills.) How about, since there are so many places to buy food downtown, instead of meters, we post signs asking people to bring a homeless person a meal instead of giving money directly? HA! Just kidding! We already admitted that’s not the full agenda.

But at the very least, c’mon, don’t post one of these meters in direct view of the Catholic mission. I realize the sidewalk isn’t part of the church, but this makes it even tackier. Apparently even that guy who wears the big hat in Rome sneaks out of the Vatican from time to time to feed the homeless. Of course, I guess he wouldn’t have to do something that risky if they installed these meters where the homeless gather. Or, y’know, if he didn’t genuinely care without judgement.

1 comment:

cembra said...

The most negative aspect of the homeless meters are that they take people one step further away from one another. You're no longer looking someone in the eye (or hearing their voice, if you don't want to look), so you're no longer interacting--you're feeding a meter, a thing, slipping change into a formalized "Take A Penny / Leave A Penny" dish. Then there's always the question as to how much of that donation money is making it to those who need it. Any time that money has to pass through several different hands, there's always the chance that at least one of those hands will have an itchy palm... and then the "who's gonna know?" factor comes in to play.